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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Zee Cinema World Television Premiere: A Flying Jatt

The Super Hero film in an Indian Context is a curious thing, in that its success is one of the things that we weren’t able to replicate in our cinema, nor our super heroes usually measure up to their Hollywood counterparts. One of the reasons, I think, is maybe we like our heroes to be human even if they defy gravity, intelligence and logic with their stunts. The Indian hero didn’t need a cape and a mask to do any of the stunts, and he definitely didn’t need a complex backstory to save pretty damsels from falling off from 50 storeyed buildings. 

Barring the Krrish Franchise, there hasn’t been a successful franchise, heck there isn’t a successful first film to build a franchise upon, even when the directors were somewhat persistent in their attempts at the Super Hero. It might also be that the world saving Super Hero didn’t cut much ice with the locals who wanted their drama with more than a dash of sentiment, theatre and melodrama. Rakesh Roshan’s Krish franchise broke in when the multiplexes came in and brought more money into the genre, and reach to the audiences and the series is hugely popular, successful and profitable for everyone involved.

Turning the Super Hero concept on its head came A Flying Jatt, where the protagonist is constantly taunted and bullied by his peers and the locality, until his mother pronounces him a Super Hero after a chance encounter with the evil and a magic tree. What ensues is a hilarious time as the Flying Jatt, named of his father, comes to terms with his super powers and seems to be getting along alright, even if the cape gets stuck in weird places at all the wrong times. Tiger Shroff takes everything, the bullying and the adulation, that comes with the story in his stride and creates a believable and likeable desi Super Hero, one who makes it very difficult to look away from and one whose success we all root for.

There is a dialogue in the film where one character says “job hi hai, apna hai”, whatever he is and however he looks like, he is one of our own and this is the theme that runs through the film. This is a hero we all know, who has to finish chores at home before he starts saving the world, who is demure with his girlfriend before he realizes his super powers, and plays the clown despite being a super hero, all too convincingly, and he does all this wearing a turban. Bravo. This is the stuff that makes our heroes and the writing by Remo D’Souza and Tushar Hiranandani emphatically checks the boxes, even throwing in the sacrificing elder brother too for good measure, making it a ride we all would want to hop on to. 

If “A Flying Jatt” happens to be the first installment of a franchise, which I want it to be; this serves as a great introduction to the Super Hero. Zee Cinema brings our own Super Hero, A Flying Jatt, to our television screens as the World Television Premiere on 22nd October, 2016 at 8 PM. I for one would watch it all over again and cheer for The Flying Jatt.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Richard Attenborough's Gandhi on Zee Classic

No man's life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and to try to find one's way to the heart of the man.

Thus begins one of the most iconic films of all times made on the most important Indian of the last century, and the man making that statement, Richard Attenborough, knows what he was trying to do and does it in the most emphatic manner. It was also said that when Attenborough approached Nehru with the idea for this film, Nehru told him “don’t make the man a bloody saint Richard” and while it is debatable to say that Attenborough obliged the Prime Minister, he certainly gave us the most enduring and appeasing portrayal of Gandhi on film

I watched Gandhi on a British Airways flight from London to New York in 2012, it was an interesting time for me to watch a film like that. The Airlines has a few other alternatives to choose from but I’m glad I chose Gandhi, for it was a rousing film. I always found the film to be an action drama despite the fact that not a drop of blood was spilled in the entire film. Even in flight, watching in a screen measuring only about seven inches, I still remember how each scene made me feel. The scenes in South Africa were particularly gripping in their depiction of the power of non-violent protest, and Ben Kingsley’s tour de force as Gandhi still gives me goose flesh every time I remember the determined look on his face, or listen to his voice. I never heard Gandhi speak but after more than 4 years of watching the film, I still remember Kingsley’s voice and his piercing gaze whenever I think of that film.

John Briley’s screenplay doesn’t waste too much time on setting the man up or the circumstances he has to deal with, instead the narrative directly begins on the day of his assassination and immediately flashes back to the most important achievement of Gandhi outside India, the non-violent protest against racial discrimination against Indians in South Africa, triggered by him being thrown off from a train. The narrative then touches upon all the major landmarks of the Indian Freedom struggle and focuses on Gandhi’s role in uniting the nation towards the cause of Freedom.   

Richard Attenborough’s biopic is not a complex film at all, for it does not delve deeper into personality traits of Mohandas Gandhi, nor it touches upon Gandhi’s skewed relationships with other prominent leaders of freedom struggle, notably Jinnah. It aims for being an epic and largely succeeds in glossing over anything that seem to diminish Gandhi’s image, with its singular focus on the man at all times that others fade in comparison, but still it serves as an important introduction to the phenomenon of Gandhi. 

Gandhi won all sorts of awards when it released in 1982 including the Oscars and is an important film to be preserved, cherished, and reintroduced to newer generations. Zee Classic in its efforts to bring back India’s finest films is going to premiere Gandhi this Saturday, i.e. on 13th of August at 8 PM, and again on our Independence Day (15th August) at 9:30 AM. If you haven’t watched the film yet, I urge you to do so, and if you saw it already, I know you won’t be missing this telecast.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Praveen Sattaru's Guntur Talkies

First things first. The promos are all wrong, there is not much of Rashmi Gautam in Guntur Talkies as the promos would have led you to believe, which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, given how her character pans out. Secondly, there is a lot of filth you have to sit through, but you wouldn’t hold that against the film since the experience is generally rewarding for about 3/4ths of the plot.

Praveen Sattaru has truly come of age with Guntur Talkies and this is by far his most confident outing. The screenplay by Siddhu Jonnalagadda along with Praveen is smartly written and the acting is perfect by the lead pair Naresh and Siddhu. They share a great chemistry and for once the senior pro does seem to know what he is doing, and brings in a lot of expertise to the deliciously written role. It is a rewarding role for an actor at this stage of his career and Naresh pitches the character perfectly, the twitching eye and all.

The first half of the film celebrates its rawness with its richly detailed and tenderly nuanced portrayals of its protagonists. The day in their lives, the trials and tribulations and the works are notched up perfectly and the actors, as said earlier, revel in their roles. There are no unwanted songs and the background music does not intrude into the experience. The film takes its own sweet time getting into the plot, but no one complains since it is not everyday we see such charming self indulgence in Telugu Cinema, and it does have a story to tell too. Who would have thought?

Things get a bit down when the other players’ paths converge into that of the protagonists and the film feels like a, for the lack of better word, “film”. The other actors like Raghubabu, Tagubotu Ramesh, Mahesh Manjrekar, Shraddha Das, fine actors they are, seem too theatrical and out of place in this world.  The nuances and detailing go for a toss as a result, which is still fine, and even the second half does have its moments too, but they don’t all add up and the film falls flat on its face in a climax that can only be called unpardonable. Praveen Sattaru creates an intricate plot, but probably got too confused in his own creation, and chose to Mexican Standoff his way out of it all, which is a really really bad way to end what was otherwise, and until then, a very smart and good looking film.

Guntur Talkies warrants a stronger recommendation than what it gets now, which can only be attributed to its terrible ending, but it still remains the best film to come out of Tollywood this year so far.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Shoojit Sircar's Piku

Ever since I saw the trailers of Piku, the characters that lingered in my mind were from the dysfunctional family created by Upamanyu Chatterjee in his two books The Last Burden and Way to Go. Shyamanand, the father, and head of that family, is a Bengali, often grumpy, and excessively obsessed about his bowel movements, when he is not shooing away his neighborhood builder Monga from trying to persuade him to sell his house off, much like Amitabh Bachchan in the film. 

Chatterjee’s books are comparatively dark, with ruminating monologues liberally spread across the pages, making the work seem long, monotonous, a bit vegetative, much like life itself when lead daily across pages. Shoojit Sircar’s film, on the other hand, is a consistently charming film, giving a progressive outlook to the Parent-Daughter dynamic. It breezes away with an enviable lightness, riding high on the winsome performances from its entire cast. For all I know, Shoojit and Juhi Chaturvedi might not even know about the books, but that does not take anything away from their lovely writing in making this road-movie a memorable, and often pleasurable, ride. 

At 30, Piku is also an important film at this point in my life, for it raises important questions about Sons’ and Daughters’ responsibility towards their parents. Though the film does not take the escapist route, it does well to masquerade the narrative with sweetness again once it ensures the questions have been raised and planted in the viewers’ minds. Other issues like the corporate greed versus the nostalgia and longing for the one’s roots, marriage being for people of lesser IQ, pre-marital sex, are all alluded to but never allowed to spoil the fun as the actors and writers play one-up against each other successfully in creating a humane comedy.

The film also has an outsider in Irfan Khan, who finds himself in the parent-daughter bickering over their journey from Delhi to Kolkata. In addition to providing an romantic sub-plot to the film, Irfan Khan’s character allows the audience to warm up to the leads, and vent out our own frustrations towards them when the going gets tough or uncomfortably familiar to him, who is fighting his own issues with his parents on similar lines. 

Amitabh Bachchan plays a grumpy old man who claims himself a “critical” person, but he is too much of a father figure in general to let his sarcasm or his grumpiness hurt, while it adds more weight to the concern he shows over his daughter. For that aura alone, we are infinitely lucky to have him play these sorts of roles. When his character Bhaskor Banerjee cycles his way through the streets of Kolkata, gleeful and oblivious of his constipation or other troubles, packs himself oily jalebis in a paper bag, I thought the film was drifting into Nebraska territory, but thankfully it ends fittingly, and almost perfectly. 

On a side note, Piku also made me a bit envious about how Bengalis are more creatively inclined, with their culture seeped in excellent literature, films and music. I wonder if we have suitable parallels or equals in my own language Telugu, and I also have to blame it on myself not able to, or willing to explore great works in my native language. This would also be one of my key take-aways from this film, to read and find more works in Telugu.  

Piku could have been a stronger film, or a darker one, or both, but for what it is, it is still a very very good one. Don't forget to take your parents along. The film will talk to them about a lot of things you could not bring yourself to.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Nag Ashwin's Yevade Subrahmanyam

I watched Yevade Subrahmanyam last night, and I can’t get it out of my head. 

On most days, I would have been a snob about the film and dismissed it straight away as being too predictable and clich├ęd, but I can’t seem to do that today. It has done something a lot of films that I liked immensely couldn’t do – to make me think, retrospect, ruminate, sulk, and become restless in general. Mind you, it has nothing to do with the film, or its acting, cinematography, editing, screenplay et al, in fact none of them impressed me, the film is not about any of them, nor is it about any life changing incidents or heart-tugging emotions, in fact the conscience, or the presence, of the film is felt much later. Long after I got away from the theater, I can’t shake off the discomfort clouding over me whenever I walk alone or have a moment with myself. I can’t seem to stop thinking about the movie, and the questions it raises. 

Subrahmanyam, the man reluctant to go on the journey of his life, is one of us who paid a lot of good money watching the film. He talks a lot of sense when he admonishes his friend about shedding responsibilities, choosing to be a nomad, helps a poor girl to his best of his abilities while ensuring that his new car doesn’t get spoiled, does not seem to do anything illegal or unethical in his plans to acquire the Ramayya company. Yet, he was constantly put in his place, talked down for being practical, calculating and ambitious, but when the big moment of his life kicks in, a chance conversation with a foreigner, everything changes for him. What exactly he has changed himself to is vague, something even the director seems to have no clue about, or left for our imagination. 

Frankly, it rings quite true, for anyone who is facing a midlife crisis will tell you that there are no easy answers for any of the questions your mind conjures up after watching Yevade Subrahmanyam. The film, as said earlier, takes a convenient route of a loveless marriage and a sparking love story, but the larger issues of existential dilemma are left for each of us to sort ourselves out. In that sense, the epilogue is more important than any of the incidents in the film, coz the real film starts the moment the actual one ends. Nag Ashwin can’t write it for us. We have to do it ourselves. 

I recommend Yevade Subramanyam to everyone for the sheer power of the film and the potential of what it may do to you, but be warned that once you watch it, you can’t unwatch it, how much ever you wish to do so.